Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough
Image © Jo Fletcher Books
A dark presence has descended over London in the late 1800’s and it isn’t just the smog. Told primarily through Dr. Thomas Bond – Police Surgeon, the novel is set against the backdrop of the paranoia and mayhem instilled by Jack the Ripper. However, the ‘Ripper’ case is merely a symptom of the equally disturbing but lesser known events of the Torso murders (1887 – 1889).
It is these horrendous crimes and some of the actual people involved in the case(s), such as Inspector Moore and Dr. Bond, in which this story concentrates. Having read some Historical Fiction before, I’ve found them to be rather staid. Mayhem however, works with an obviously well researched historical foundation together with Ms. Pinborough's own unique supernatural twist on events, bringing real characters to life through the story’s own internal narrative.
While Dr. Bond is the reader’s identification figure, the story progresses through the tales of various characters. Told in first and third person, sometimes jumping back in time - places, and interspersed with newspaper articles of the day, the structure is such that it works amazingly well. As each chapter ends, a character's story is briefly snatched away from the reader, only to be revisited later. It left me in constant anticipation, even though the killer is revealed well before the end – a brave decision. A decision that cranks up the anticipation levels through to its conclusion. For this isn’t so much a ‘whodunnit’, as a ‘howthehellwegonnadealwithit’.
Not only is Mayhem a cracking read, I later wanted to learn more about these actual events, overshadowed as they are by the Ripper Murders. And such is the suffocating atmosphere of Victorian London that pervades this novel and the interesting struggle of Dr. Bond’s drug induced double-life, the second novel, Murder, can’t come soon enough.